Hypothalamic action of phoenixin to control reproductive hormone secretion in females: importance of the orphan G protein-coupled receptor Gpr173

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2016 Sep 1;311(3):R489-96. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00191.2016. Epub 2016 Jul 20.


Sexual maturation and maintenance of reproductive function are regulated by neurohormonal communication between the hypothalamus, pituitary, and gonads (referred to as the HPG axis). Phoenixin (PNX) is a newly identified, endogenous peptide abundantly produced in the hypothalamus and shown to be an important mediator of ovarian cyclicity. However, the underlying mechanisms by which phoenixin functions within the HPG axis are unknown. Previous in vitro studies demonstrated a direct action of PNX on gonadotrophs to potentiate gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) induced luteinizing hormone (LH) secretion. Therefore, we hypothesized that centrally derived phoenixin regulates the preovulatory LH surge required for ovarian cyclicity. We observed a significant dose-related increase in the level of plasma LH in diestrous, female rats that were given an intracerebroventricular injection of PNX compared with vehicle-treated controls. While this suggests that even under low-estrogen conditions, PNX acts centrally to stimulate the HPG axis, further characterization is contingent on the elucidation of its cognate receptor. Using the "deductive ligand receptor matching strategy," we identified the orphan G protein-coupled receptor, Gpr173, as our top candidate. In cultured pituitary cells, siRNA-targeted compromise of Gpr173 abrogated PNX's action to potentiate GnRH-stimulated LH secretion. In addition, siRNA-mediated knockdown of endogenous Gpr173, which localized to several hypothalamic sites related to reproductive function, not only significantly extended the estrous cycle but also prevented the PNX-induced LH secretion in diestrous, female rats. These studies are the first to demonstrate a functional relationship between PNX and Gpr173 in reproductive physiology and identify a potential therapeutic target for ovulatory dysfunction.

Keywords: Gpr173; estrous cyclicity; luteinizing hormone; phoenixin.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Estrous Cycle / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hypothalamic Hormones / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Luteinizing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Peptide Hormones / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Reproduction / physiology*


  • Hypothalamic Hormones
  • Peptide Hormones
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • gpr173 protein, rat
  • phoenixin-20
  • Luteinizing Hormone